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Family Activism

Family Activism: Immigrant Struggles and the Politics of Noncitizenship

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Family Activism
    Book Description:

    During the past ten years, legal and political changes in the United States have dramatically altered the legalization process for millions of undocumented immigrants and their families. Faced with fewer legalization options, immigrants without legal status and their supporters have organized around the concept of the family as a political subject-a political subject with its rights violated by immigration laws.

    Drawing upon the idea of the "impossible activism" of undocumented immigrants, Amalia Pallares argues that those without legal status defy this "impossible" context by relying on the politicization of the family to challenge justice within contemporary immigration law. The culmination of a seven-year-long ethnography of undocumented immigrants and their families in Chicago, as well as national immigrant politics,Family Activismexamines the three ways in which the family has become politically significant: as a political subject, as a frame for immigrant rights activism, and as a symbol of racial subordination and resistance.

    By analyzing grassroots campaigns, churches and interfaith coalitions, immigrant rights movements, and immigration legislation, Pallares challenges the traditional familial idea, ultimately reframing the family as a site of political struggle and as a basis for mobilization in immigrant communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6458-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Immigrant Rights Activism and the Family Paradox
    (pp. 1-22)

    In the past decade, due to legal and political changes that have dramatically curtailed the legalization options for people who are in the United States without legal status, millions of undocumented immigrants and their families have experienced the threat or reality of deportation and family separation. Faced with the increasing inability to make any individual claim to remain in the United States, undocumented immigrants, their relatives, and supporters have organized around the notion of family as a political subject whose rights are being violated upon deportation. Insofar as many of these families are mixed-status families, meaning they have at least...

    (pp. 23-37)

    The preservation of family unity has become a common referent for immigrants and their descendants as well as for a broader community of support. Spearheaded by community, political, and religious leaders, this defense of family is mainly informed by the shared lived experiences of immigrants facing the prospect of deportation in a historical and legal context that had privileged family reunification and unity for almost four decades. As immigration policy changes seek a diminishment of the family reunification rationale to one that emphasizes “highly skilled” professionals, today’s immigrants are experiencing an unprecedented reality: the contradiction between a history and official...

  7. 2 A TALE OF SANCTUARY: Agency, Representativity, and Motherhood
    (pp. 38-61)

    This chapter focuses on Elvira Arellano, a Mexican undocumented immigrant mother and founder and president of La Familia Latina Unida (LFLU) who, facing deportation, sought sanctuary in Adalberto Unido Methodist Church in Chicago in August 2006. Arellano’s action gained national and international recognition, shedding light on the increasing deportations and creating a platform for the voice and agency of an undocumented mother. An analysis of Arellano’s case provides insight into the relationships among political motherhood, agency, and representativity. I explore what her appeal to motherhood meant for her as an undocumented immigrant, for the immigrant rights struggle, and for a...

  8. 3 REGARDING FAMILY: From Local to National Activism
    (pp. 62-96)

    In a Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting held in September 2006, then Cook County commissioner Robert Maldonado requested that Chicago be symbolically declared a place of asylum for undocumented immigrants. Several activists and representatives of immigrant organizations, community organizations, and churches spoke. Ninety percent of the speakers were in favor of the declaration. Raquel Jiménez,¹ a member of La Familia Latina Unida (LFLU) and an undocumented immigrant who was almost deported while pregnant two years earlier, approached the podium. In fluent if slightly accented English, she introduced herself, stated that she was undocumented and that she had three children,...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 4 OUR YOUTH, OUR FAMILIES: DREAM Act Politics and Neoliberal Nationalism
    (pp. 97-131)

    As the members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) chanted and walked in a circle outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in the summer of 2011, a bystander might have viewed this as another immigrant rally designed to stop a deportation, an ordinary occurrence in a movement that had mobilized for over five years. But a closer examination would reveal that this is an unusual crowd, not consisting of the usual combination of middle-aged activists, some children, and a few youths present in most rallies, but mostly of youths under the age of twenty-five. Moreover, most...

  11. CONCLUSION: Moving Beyond the Boundaries
    (pp. 132-140)

    In July 2013, a meme circulated on Facebook with a picture of Congressman Luis Gutierrez stating that reform cannot only include youth—that is, it also has to include the parents. This was a direct reference to a debate in the House over whether nonyouth should have a path to legalization and an existing Senate bill that would include over half of the undocumented, but would render others ineligible. In the context of policy discussions in which all amendments were seeking to enforce more and curtail legalization as well as provide no significant expansion to family visas, Gutierrez’s statement sounded...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 141-148)
    (pp. 149-156)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 157-170)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 171-172)